No state funding lifeline for Indigenous telephone counselling service

AFTER a lukewarm federal government response to a proposal for an Indigenous-specific Lifeline service to combat soaring suicide rates, NSW Indigenous Affairs Minister Leslie Williams said she was satisfied with the progress being made as part of existing state programs.

Lifeline Central West executive director Alex Ferguson has so far been unsuccessful in securing federal funding for YarnUp Confidential, which would employ 118 Indigenous telephone crisis support personnel answering calls related to depression and anxiety, drug and alcohol problems, domestic violence, problem gambling, financial counselling, health, trauma and abuse.

Ms Williams visited Orange on Friday for the Recognise Relay in relation to constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians and said the state government already contributed $10.5 million to Lifeline during a four-year period and encouraged Lifeline to continue its work, but she would speak with member for Parkes Mark Coulton about the proposal.

“Aboriginal issues have been there for generations and when you look at the Closing the Gap report, we’ve had small gains, but these are quite entrenched issues – they’re over-represented in the justice system and there’s poorer outcomes for Aboriginal people in terms of health and education,” she said.

“We’re certainly moving along and we’re very supportive of working with the Aboriginal community at a local level on issues they see as a priority.”

Her comments did not surprise Mr Ferguson, who said evidence indicated progress had been minor and no more would be made unless the Indigenous community played a major role.

“It’s about Aboriginal people and training Aboriginal people and getting some outcomes. It’s time to look for a new model that creates a degree of discussion in the Aboriginal community and it has to come from the Aboriginal community,” he said.

Mr Ferguson said the proposal would remain on the table.

If you are experiencing troubling thoughts, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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